Tunnel contractor breaks through ceiling of Virginia Capitol | app

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A contractor working on a $25 million tunnel that will connect the Virginia Capitol to a nearby legislative office building “inadvertently” drilled through the ceiling of an underground Capitol extension earlier this year, causing debris to fall into the center’s cafe visitors, a state official said.

The Capitol was briefly evacuated on March 14 while crews assessed the damage, said Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the state agency overseeing the project. Debris fell into the kitchen and the cafe was then closed, with no employees inside.

Potter said the Department of General Services would not characterize the incident as a roof collapse.

“Crews repaired the small holes and there was no further damage. The Capitol resumed normal operations following the incident; however, the cafe remained offline in anticipation of a scheduled closure on the 2 May of the entire underground Visitor Center to accommodate both the excavation of the tunnel and a project to replace part of the extension’s roof system,” Potter wrote in response to an inquiry from the ‘Associated Press.

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This closure, previously announced in April, is expected to remain in place through at least December “to ensure the safety of all Capitol visitors and employees,” her email states.

Visitors can still access the Capitol during the closure through a side entrance.

Work on the roof system of the underground extension, which opened in 2007, is needed to address water seepage issues, the department said. The project will consist of temporarily removing the steps from the historic south portico.

Lawmakers approved funding in 2020 for the tunnel, which was touted as a way to make navigating Capitol Square easier without having to pass through multiple security checkpoints. It will be connected to a new General Assembly building which is expected to open in time for next year’s legislative session. The tunnel project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

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